While Veasey was in prison, the feds changed their mind about who’d murdered Billy Veasey. They’d originally blamed Stanfa, but subsequently determined that the killing was a classic setup—John would assume Stanfa was behind it, assuring his testimony against the Mob boss. The feds charged Joey Merlino and two -associates—George Borgesi and John Ciancaglini (Mikey Chang’s brother)—with the murder. All three, however, were acquitted in a 2001 trial.
“He was an opportunist,” Veasey says of Merlino, who became Mob boss after Stanfa and his henchmen went to jail. “I know he’s responsible for my brother’s murder. I don’t care who pulled the trigger.”
When I visit him, John lifts his shirt to show me a tattoo on his stomach that says, “In loving memory of Billy Veasey.”
“My brother’s not gonna die in vain,” he says.
WHEN VEASEY GOT OUT of jail after serving nearly a decade, the feds gave him some money, put him on a plane to fly-over country, and wished him luck. Veasey checked into a hotel, where he found work as a janitor. Then he fell for a hotel administrator, a petite Mexican woman with an hourglass figure. (Lorraine had died.) She reminded John of his late mother, especially when he saw her taking care of her siblings’ kids. She told John she didn’t date guests. So John promptly checked out of the hotel, even though the feds were willing to pay for his accommodations there for another 16 months. But he did get that date.
“He’s very charming, very charismatic,” she says. “That kind of thing wins a woman’s heart. After that, I was just, like, gone.”
Within two weeks, the couple was ready to get married. But first, she wanted to come clean about her past. “I have something to tell you,” she told John. “I’m illegal. I don’t have any papers.”
“That’s okay,” John said. “I have something to tell you, too.”
“What are you,” she guessed, “a Mafia hit man?”
“I have a past,” he admitted. They got married anyway. “She’s the first person I ever loved or who made me know what love is,” John says. But the tough guy who wasn’t afraid of anybody suddenly realized he had something to lose. “She’s the first person I’ve ever been afraid of,” he says. “Ain’t nobody back in Philly I can say that about.”
John’s wife is the reason he gave up his plans to return to South Philly and seek revenge for his brother’s death. The former hit man is now surrogate father to three kids from his wife’s family; he also regularly babysits eight nieces and nephews. The man who once owned that Rottweiler and pit bull now has a fluffy bichon and a cuddly toy poodle that weigh 20 pounds between them and answer to the names of Sparkle and Tabor.
When his wife found out about her husband’s past, she told him, “I only know the good side of you. I’ve never seen that side.” And whenever she hears about it, “It’s, like, surreal to me. It’s like watching a movie.”